News that Turkey’s military pension fund has reached a deal to buy embattled British Steel will come as a disappointment to supporters of British industry.
The Turkish Armed Forces Assistance Fund (Oyak) says it plans to buy British Steel by the end of the year.
British Steel employs 5,000 people, mostly at the Scunthorpe and Teeside steel works, Presstv Reported.
The sale of British steel to an unusual foreign entity (Oyak) is in keeping with a long-term trend which began in the Thatcher era of the 1980s.
Under Thatcher’s privatization scheme substantial parts of Britain’s critical infrastructure, notably the gas and electricity supply industry, were sold off to foreign investors.
The sale of both public and private assets has continued apace since Thatcher departed the arena in November 1990.
Dubbing it “the great British sell-off”, The Economist reported in March 2016 that the government had encouraged departments to find land and property to sell, with the aim of raising £5 billion by 2020.
Meanwhile, the sale of private companies has been going on at a much larger scale.
Writing in the Guardian in March 2015, the chair of the Big Innovation Centre, Will Hutton, revealed that in a ten-year period, 2005 to 2015, £440 billion worth of private companies were sold to foreign owners.
Describing the “selling off” of Britain as a sign of “profound weakness”, Hutton lamented: “For centuries Britain, courtesy of empire and overseas expansion, enjoyed a phenomenal net surplus of assets; we owned more of the world than foreigners owned us”.
It is difficult to ignore the logic inherent in Hutton’s insight. There does appear to be a direct link between Britain’s geopolitical decline and the selling off of British assets, both public and private, to foreign entities.
The “selling-off” of Britain often works to the disadvantage of the people most directly affected by these decisions, namely the workers and their families.
It has been reported that the prospective buyer of British Steel is planning to cut jobs as part of a “productivity drive”.
But even the workers who get to keep their jobs are expected to face tough times ahead. The Guardian reported on August 16 that "Ataer Holding", the subsidiary of Oyak which will take direct ownership of British Steel, has a poor labour rights record and was involved in a corruption scandal in 2012.